Blog Post #2


Lesotho is a small developing country contained within South Africa. You and your team of academic researchers (10 in all) are spending the next two weeks travelling to different communities throughout Lesotho to test water sources for disease-causing pathogens. The testing you need to do is simple but requires significant assistance from the community – showing your team all the different locations where individuals get their water from, and places/methods for storing the water. You do not see the need to pay the community members, considering if someone asked you about your water source, you would not mind driving them up to the lake! The ultimate goal of the project is to understand the lifecycle and characteristics of a specific pathogen, which is found only in this region of Lesotho. Several publications are expected from this research study. A comprehensive profile of this pathogen can help in many ways including development of chemical additives to make the water safe to drink. Is it ethical to conduct this research study? What will you do next?

Ethical or not?

If we are more transparent and give them more of an education (e.g. pathogens in water, boil water) on what we are doing, then yes. Otherwise, the ethical issue lies in the idea that we are using the locals for their indigenous knowledge and not giving anything back in return. (lack in beneficence )


  • I am an academic researcher expecting several publications out of the research study in Lesotho
  • There are clear signs that Lesotho water has disease causing pathogens 
  • Their methods for storing water are different and uncommon compared to previous knowledge of the research team 
  • Driving the community members up the lake in exchange for information is considered good enough payment – do not expect actual pay
  • We need to rely heavily on indigenous knowledge to move towards a clear problem statement or solution 
  • The research team and I are experts in pathogen/ disease research (health medicine and society)
  • Research funded by an outside source, university/lab/government that expects a clear outcome
  • We are hoping that the chemical additives will make the water safer to drink, but there will be costs involved that we are unsure they can afford 
  • assume all IRB’s have been obtained 
  • Assume we would get assistance from the local community
  • There may be implications of not being able to complete the study (funding, brand, relationships may be affected) – to avoid this, ahead of time, do research on stakeholders

Stakeholders and Motivations

  • University/lab/government (Funding agency)
    • Treat spread of disease
    • Reputation of gaining academic knowledge on pathogen
    • Funding agency will have their name attached to the possible solution
    • More advertising – want to be a world leader in the field – want to build up their brand
    • More partners
  • Research team
    • Help patients involved
    • Further their career and potentially making money 
    • Earn more money to continue doing research and get continuous funding
  • Local people
    • Create healthier living environment 
    • Have safer water to drink
    • Lessen the risk of contracting a disease-causing pathogen
    • Excitement to learn and socialize – but their vulnerability may result in wanting you to hear what you want to hear – they do not want to come off as ignorant – they may reinforce your ideas because they think you’re smart and want to agree. On the other hand, some may be weary to trust an outsider so make sure you talk to the right people 
    • Negotiating entry
    • Cleaner water may lead to more tourism/more business connections 
  • Academic Journal
    • Getting new and credible information that will better their reputation and add to their plethora of knowledge
  • Yourself (Researcher)
    • Help local communities involved
    • (Hopefully) Actual interest/passion for social impact 
    • Understand the lifecycle and characteristics of the pathogen
    • Boost credentials
    • Maintain your job and further career

Alternative Solutions

  • (1)Send prepaid sampling supplies and provide incentives to the people to gather water samples/take surveys seeing where people get water from
    • Pros: Save travelling expenses 
    • Cons: Samples could be taken incorrectly and cause a failure to gather information on the pathogen 
    • Principle:  It’s better to pay the locals to do the work for the research team and help send the samples to us then debating what locals should be paid or compensated that would’ve helped us if we were collecting samples. Therefore time is saved but consequently the study could prove useless ( Consequence Based Thinking)
  • (2) To find water sources on our own without any local assistance 
    • Pros: Removes ethical dilemma regarding the community
    • Cons: could be gathering water where they do not drink from and it could take much longer than if you asked the community
    • Principle: Could ultimately be a waste of time and reduce the credibility of our findings which is not the mission of this research team. The goal of this research team is to further their understanding of a pathogen that is contaminating drinking water.  (Consequence Based Thinking)
  • (3) Have community health workers travel with you during your field work so that there is a trusted person with you to help prevent push back also give incentives to the locals helping you ( ex. education)
    • Pros: allows for beneficence because it provides value for the locals and allows for the research to be conducted with hopefully less push back.
    • Cons: would have to spend more money on bringing that health care worker along and they could still not accept the us are what we are saying
    • Principle:  Duty Based Thinking

Select Best Course of Action: 

  • Integrating some educational compensation satisfies the ethical issue at hand. Since the researchers are entering a foreign county to research a disease causing pathogen some of the locals may not believe in the existence of this disease. Having a the presence of a CHW will help to avoid this road block.
  • The researchers should educate the locals on how to rid their water of this pathogen or educate them on the specific pathogen they are researching, or both
  • Solution 3 ensures all around maximization with a positive social value because it satisfies all stake holders involved and gives the research more credibility even though it requires more money. Unlike solution 1 and 2 solution three upholds ethical values and ensure the rigor of this study is met.
  • The risk is minimized for the all stakeholders except the researches because they still run the risk of push back.
  • Although there is still a potential risk this solution is best because this risk is worth gathering meaningful data
  • Provides social value to the people of Lesotho with relationship/partnership building and collaboration with the university, researchers, and healthcare workers
  • Addresses beneficence when the locals are being benefiting from the research in the short term


  • Potentially improve community health through education of the pathogen
  • the funding agency and university will be viewed as socially responsible both with domestic audience and people of Lesotho because they choose to provide the community with a benefit as well as the CHW
  • Opportunity to market a cleaning solution
  • Adding to knowledge of waterborne pathogens
  • Potential positive or negative environmental implications if a solution is born after this research
  • Building relationships/ partners for future projects

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